A crisis appears on the horizon as the Cross River House of Assembly is about beginning work on a bill seeking the establishment of Land Use and Allocation Management Commission (LUAC) to do away with the Land Use Act 1978 which it considers defective.
Also, the legislative chamber is to review the memorandum of understanding (MoU) entered into by the state government, Wilmar PZ and the host communities of Akamkpa and Biase local councils wherein the firm acquired hectares of land for its palm estate 10 years ago.
Presenting the policy brief on the bill at a two-day interactive session organised by the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) and sponsored by Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) in Calabar yesterday, the Executive Director of ERA, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo said: “The Land Use Act of 1978 is highly defective hence we propose the policy brief.”
He went on: “The use of overriding state interest in land allocation exercised by governors means that they own land in trust for the people.
“But examples show that communal laws safeguarding communal land rights are relegated and the Land Use Act becomes the instrument of appropriation and dispossession of communities’ lands. It must be noted that once the purpose of land acquisition by government ceases to apply, land ought to revert to the communities.”
Among other things, the ERA official pointed out that the proposed piece of legislation “will initiate programmes and policies for land allocation and acquisition and promptly determine grievances or disputes arising from land issues.
During the session, 20 communities from the two council areas presented a position paper, urging a review of the pact.
The document that was handed over to the Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Charles Ekpe, sought revocation of the previous MoU and drafting of a new one to reflect their demand.
An Associate Professor at the University of Calabar and an indigene of Akamkpa, Dr. Raphael Offiong, asserted that the pact was faulty, alleging that none of the host communities participated in the signing.
The bill sponsor, Ekpe, and other lawmakers present pledged that the piece of legislation would get prominence.
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